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Joan Anderson's Inspiring Memoir, "A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman"

Updated on November 1, 2016
Margaret Schindel profile image

Margaret loves books, movies and music. She writes in-depth reviews of her favorites to help her readers discover and enjoy them, too.

"A Year by the Sea" by Joan Anderson - a book every woman who has ever felt unfulfilled in her life or marriage or wondered about her self-worth or direction should read.
"A Year by the Sea" by Joan Anderson - a book every woman who has ever felt unfulfilled in her life or marriage or wondered about her self-worth or direction should read. | Source

A Beautifully Written Memoir of Joan Anderson's Year-Long Retreat and Her Path to Self-Discovery

A Year by the Sea is the wonderful, thought-provoking and inspiring memoir of journalist and bestselling author Joan Anderson's year-long retreat to her family's cottage on Cape Cod to rediscover herself and reinvent her life.

When her grown children have left home and her husband takes a new job in a different state, simply assuming that she would go along wherever and whenever he chose to go, Joan finds herself at a major crossroads and sets off alone to figure out who she is and what she wants to be and do with her life. It is a poignant, personal, hopeful and ultimately celebratory book about the difficult but necessary journey of self-discovery, the need to learn to live fully in the present, with intention, and the fundamental human drive figure out, create and live the life you want.

My Rating of This Book: 5 Stars

5 stars for "A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman"

Facing a Major Crossroads

As her journey begins, Joan has spent the first four decades of her life playing the expected roles for women of her era: going to college, getting married, becoming a mother, being a "good mother" and a "good wife" as defined by societal norms. After a lifetime of focusing on her husband and now-grown children, she is tired of being taken for granted and realizes that she has made her life all about pleasing others without giving a thought to what she herself would find fulfilling. She finds herself at a crossroads, recognizing that she needs to separate herself from the prescribed roles she has been playing and find out who she really is. So she heads off alone to the family's summer cottage on Cape Cod to figure out her individual identity and her unique purpose and then determine the course of the rest of her life.

Joan Anderson spent a year on Cape Cod, Massachusetts discovering her authentic self and her life purpose. She chronicles her magical journey of reinventing herself in her memoir, "A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman".
Joan Anderson spent a year on Cape Cod, Massachusetts discovering her authentic self and her life purpose. She chronicles her magical journey of reinventing herself in her memoir, "A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman". | Source

Discovering Her Authentic Self

By isolating herself from her family for a year, having to be completely self-reliant and also having to try to fit in as an outsider in a tight-knit community in Cape Cod, she discovers surprising inner strength, learns to embrace nature and solitude as well as friendship, and meets an elderly woman who becomes her closest friend and muse. Anderson does what she needs to do to survive by stripping away all the trappings of upscale suburban life. She takes a job at a local fish market to earn her living. She learns to embrace uncertainty and new experiences, from swimming with seals to truly appreciating the natural beauty that surrounds her, even the harsh elements during her winter by the sea.

Joan Anderson takes us through her emotional and inspiring year-long journey of growth and transformation in a very personal way: she shares with us the diary she kept during those 12 remarkable months.

Identifying What Is Outlived and Unlived

The beach and the beach community are central to life at the cottage where she has chosen to spend her retreat, which has been in Joan's family for a long time. The places and people are familiar to her, yet it is only during this period of learning to be present that she starts to truly get to know, understand and develop a relationship with them.

Anderson's year of introspection teaches her a great many important life lessons, the most important of which is how to just be. She identifies the things in her life that are outlived and unlived, so that she can let go the former and pursue the latter as she moves into a new phase of her live with clear focus and intention.

Quiet walks at sunset helped Joan Anderson with her introspection and self-discovery in "A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of a Unfinished Woman".
Quiet walks at sunset helped Joan Anderson with her introspection and self-discovery in "A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of a Unfinished Woman". | Source

An Important Book for Women and the Men Who Love Them

You don't need to be a mother or have marital problems in order to relate personally to Joan's self-questioning or to her remarkable, enlightening and fulfilling process for finding her answers. The first time I read A Year by the Sea, both my parents had died recently and the most wonderful and fulfilling job I had ever had had just come to an end. No longer able to define myself through two of the most significant roles of my life, I, too, was at an important crossroads. The roles I had outlived were very different than Joan Anderson's, yet as I experienced her journey page by page I realized that my situation was more similar to hers than it would seem on the surface.

There Are Many Reasons to Read This Thought Provoking and Inspiring Book

Most of us find ourselves following a prescribed path in order to live up to others' expectations of us and at some point, usually later than sooner, we realize that our life has not been our own. Joan Anderson's journey of self-discovery resonated deeply with me, and I found myself thoroughly engrossed in her year-long diary and the beginning of her path to finding happiness and joy in daily living. I recommend it highly to anyone who is at a personal crossroads, is pursuing a path of self-discovery, or just enjoys a beautifully written, life-affirming story.

Other Books by Joan Anderson You Might Enjoy Reading

Joan Anderson's A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman chronicles the first year in which she experienced major epiphanies about herself, her relationships and being able to create the life and marriage she wanted and deserved. That was just the beginning of the process, however. She has written more about her own continuing journey to living an authentic life as well as a wonderful book that will guide you through one weekend of single-minded introspection to help you find your authentic self and reinvigorate your dreams and your life.

An Unfinished Marriage

An Unfinished Marriage is the sequel to Joan Anderson's A Year by the Sea. The first book leaves us excited for Joan but wanting to know how things turn out for her when she returns to "real life" after her retreat on Cape Cod. Anderson takes us through the next phase of her journey in which she and her husband Robin repair, renew and reinvent their marriage and their lives, this time in partnership rather than in parallel isolation.

A Weekend to Change Your Life

Joan Anderson now leads extremely popular weekend workshops to help guide other women through their own self-discovery process. Reading her book A Weekend to Change Your Life: Find Your Authentic Self After a Lifetime of Being All Things to All People is the next best thing to attending one of Joan's workshops in person. In it, she shares the questions she asked herself and provides a step-by-step blueprint for rediscovering, re-energizing and reinventing yourself and figuring out how to pursue the dreams that will let you live life to your full potential.

A Walk on the Beach: Joan Anderson's Remarkable Friendship with Joan Erickson

A Walk on the Beach: Tales of Wisdom From an Unconventional Woman is Joan Anderson's third book about her remarkable journey of self-discovery. In it she shares in detail the friendship she developed with Joan Erickson, a wise and wonderful woman in her nineties who served as Anderson's muse, mentor, confidante and guide during her year-long retreat on Cape Cod. Joan Erickson was the wife of renowned psychoanalyst and author Erik Erickson, with whom she collaborated professionally as well as personally. Joan E., facing the death of her husband as well as the prospect of her own inevitably diminishing physical abilities, cherished the opportunity not only to share her wisdom with Joan Anderson but to receive it back from her new friend.

© 2013 Margaret Schindel

Do you ever take time to reexamine your life and think about which aspects of it are outlived or unlived?

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    • DreyaB profile image

      DreyaB 2 years ago from France

      This sound like a wonderful book Margaret and just my cup of tea. There have been a couple of times in my life where I've taken the time to reflect and work out where I want to be in life, but I find life always throws something new at you and I'm always looking for new ways to inspire me, so this sounds perfect. I'll add this to my 'wish list'. Thanks for sharing. :0)

    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 2 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      I read this book a few years ago, and really enjoyed it. You're right -- we all need to take time to take stock of ourselves and where we are headed in life.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 2 years ago from Central Florida

      I liked the first book best and gave copies to some of my friends.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 2 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Definitely getting this book! An excellent review

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 2 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      A very interesting review MSchindel. It sounds like an excellent book. I enjoy reading of people who are able to be on their own, away from the familiar. Surprising finds come from that time, I think.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
      Author

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      @MartieG: Thank you! I first read it at a time when I was nearing 60 and reassessing my own life and future, and it was truly inspiring and extremely thought-provoking. I know you'll find it compelling, and it's so beautifully written that it's a joy to read.

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 2 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Sounds like a thought provoking interesting book that I will be reading in the near future. Nice review.

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